Tory cuts to health care have forced the spending of hundreds of thousands of dollars for private nurses to fill staffing gaps, the NDP charged on Friday.
Fort Garry NDP candidate Mark Wasyliw said more than $420,000 was spent by the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority during the first three months of this year to pay for private nurses at St. Boniface Hospital, Seven Oaks General Hospital and Concordia Hospital.
And Wasyliw said his party predicts the WRHA will be forced to spend at least $1.6 million in total over the entire year to pay private nurses to fill staff shortages.
"This is absolutely the wrong way to fix it," Wasyliw said during a news conference on Friday.
"We've seen with the Pallister government that their cuts and underfunding of health care has thrown the system into chaos and it is reaching crisis levels... we have seen the Conservatives reaction to this self-made crisis. They have started hiring private, for profit, nurses from private corporate nursing agencies to make up for the loss of public nurses in the public system."
Since being elected, along with other changes to the health care system, the Pallister government has replaced emergency rooms with urgent care centres at the Victoria, Concordia and Seven Oaks hospitals, while also closing the Misericordia Health Centre's urgent care centre.
"We were sold a bill of goods," he said. "They told us that these health care cuts were going to make the system more affordable and more efficient, but we're actually seeing the opposite — we're seeing it actually costing taxpayers' money."
But the Tories fired back, saying the health care system is better now than it was under the former NDP government.
"The NDP is out of touch with reality and recklessly wants to take Manitoba back to a health-care system that was difficult for people to access and ranked last in the country," a Tory spokesman said in an emailed statement.
"Manitobans have learned the hard way that they shouldn't trust anything the NDP says about health care."
The spokesman said the NDP government itself spent money on employing private nurses, to the tune of $1.07 million in 2014/15.
"Their use as a support mechanism for front-line staff is valuable in alleviating the reliance on overtime as we proceed with long overdue changes that the NDP refused to make when they were in government," he said. "The use of agency nurses will decrease over time."
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.